Home' Teacher : December 2009 Contents 12 TEACHER DECEMBER 2009
Question: What does ARIA-award-winning
singer-songwriter Kavisha Mazzella, daugh-
ter of Italian and Burmese migrants who
grew up outside Fremantle, have in com-
mon with a group of Year 4 and 5 students,
with parents from Sudan, Vietnam, China,
Somalia and Turkey, growing up in Atherton
Gardens, one of Melbourne's huge, inner-
city public housing estates in Fitzroy?
The answer today is not just a shared
experience of the dislocations and multiple
identities of migration, but, rather remark-
ably, a song inspired by Dante's unrequited
love for his muse Beatrice.
Mazzella is at Sacred Heart School,
Fitzroy, as a special guest to talk to the
students about a song she originally wrote
for Bendigo's Gorgeous Voices Festival,
and to help them begin preparing for a per-
formance at the Ovarian Cancer Research
Foundation's end of year gala.
She begins by asking the students what
language they speak at home. 'How do you
say hello in your language?' she asks, gui-
tar perched on her lap. The students flash
shy smiles and cast sidelong glances to their
classmates. A few offer some words; a cou-
ple argue quietly with each other, 'No, that's
"good morning"! She asked for "hello."'
Mazzella tries to repeat the half-mumbled
Dinka, Arabic and Vietnamese, to much
'My father is from a country called Italy,'
she says. 'In Italian we say "buon giorno."'
They echo her greeting. 'Buon giorno,' she
She starts to tell the students a story.
How Italy used to be 'a little like Africa,'
with lots of small countries all speaking
their own languages. Then she tells them
about a famous writer and poet from a city
in the north of Italy called Firenze. His
name? Dante Alighieri. Dante wrote many
very popular poems and books, and interest
in his writing encouraged the people of Italy
to learn to read and write. Years later, when
all the little countries in Italy got together
and became one big country, they had to
decide what language to speak. Their deci-
sion was the language of the Poet, Dante.
And that's how Italian became the language
Mazzella strums her guitar and sings qui-
etly to herself while the children sit and lis-
ten in rapt attention. She continues the story.
'When he was young, Dante fell in
love with a beautiful girl called Beatrice.
IN THE FIRST OF THREE ARTICLES, RALPH SAUBERN PROFILES THE WORK OF THE SONG ROOM, AN
INNOVATIVE NOT-FOR-PROFIT THAT'S BRINGING FREE, TAILORED MUSIC AND CREATIVE ARTS EDUCATION
PROGRAMS TO SCHOOLS WITH DISADVANTAGED STUDENT POPULATIONS THROUGHOUT AUSTRALIA.
Hard to believe
Arts education and disadvantaged students
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